When Alisha Zhao first volunteered at a family homeless shelter at age 14, she was surrounded by children who shared hopes of becoming dancers, doctors, and even the president of the United States. While these dreams were inspiring, they opened Alisha’s eyes to the unmet needs of youth experiencing homelessness and led Alisha to found the Kids First Project in 2015 to help bridge the gap between a child experiencing homelessness and the resources they need to help them reach their full potential. Through a unique approach that brings extracurricular programs directly to kids living in shelters, Kids First Project offers peer mentoring, physical activities, arts and crafts, tutoring, life skills classes, monthly field trips, and themed programs from puzzle to poetry nights. Kids First Project also supports parents and gives them time to relax, find housing, and focus on themselves through enrichment programs that offer civic and government programs to educate adults about their rights as a homeless individual. Today the Kids First Project serves 10 locations with more than 400 volunteers in the Portland and San Francisco Bay areas – serving approximately 500 families who are experiencing homelessness each year.
Being a Women of Worth means being in a position to empower children experiencing homelessness to reach their full potential and help break the generational cycle of poverty.